Tuesday, October 25, 2016

SR 18 hillside repair means extra Halloween congestion

By Lisa Van Cise

UPDATE Oct. 28: This work has been postponed due to expected wet weather and will be rescheduled for a future date.

The dreary days of fall are upon western Washington and for us that means more maintenance work, hillside inspections and dangerous tree removal projects as we gear up for rain, wind, snow and ice.

One of the first in line is a landslide repair project on the hillside along westbound State Route 18 just east of Auburn that could cause major delays for drivers this weekend.

What drivers need to know
This stretch of SR 18 near Auburn will be reduced
to one lane as we stabilize this hillside.
The right lane and shoulder of westbound SR 18 on the east side of the Green River will close at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28 and reopen at 5 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1. That means there will be just one lane open throughout the weekend and on Monday. This stretch of SR 18 carries about 2,500 vehicles an hour during peak commute times and so as with any time we close lanes, expect delays.

The afternoon commute on Monday could take an additional hour with up to five miles of backup expected. We also expect 30-minute delays on Sunday afternoon. If you're headed out trick-or-treating or need to get home to get your kids in costume, please take these expected delays into account.

A heavy lift
Looking down the slide area toward westbound SR 18 below.
The hillside slid almost a year ago during heavy November rains. Our geotechnical inspectors evaluated the slide area and determined we needed to stabilize the hillside before this winter in order to avoid further slides that could endanger drivers and damage or close the highway.

Contractor crews will bring in an excavator with a 72-foot-long arm and put it in the closed lane. From there, crews will remove the debris that moved during the slide, build terraces and place rocks to stabilize and reinforce the existing slope.

Rain delay
An excavator similar to this will remove the slide
debris and work to stabilize the slope on the
side of westbound SR 18 near Auburn.
This project is extremely weather dependent. A forecast of rain could delay the work, so stay plugged in to the project website for the latest information.

Yes, we know this is a rainy time of year, but designing and scheduling projects is challenging and this is when we were able to get it ready to go. Our geotechnical engineers have been watching the hillside, and have determined we should not wait through another winter to do this work.

If the weather cooperates, the work will be done early Tuesday morning. The hillside will be more stable before the real deluge of soggy weather this winter.